Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ingratitude and the Bronze Snake

I’m trying to return to my daily times with God in my prayer room.  One of the things I do when I’m here is read Psalm 139.  At the very end of the chapter, David asks God to see if there is any offensive way in him.  Today it occurred to me to ask God, “In what way is my attitude towards Tom and my relationship with Tom offensive to you?”  It’s a question that I haven’t quite pondered in the same way and at first I couldn’t think of an answer so, rather than manufacture one, I continued on in my time with God.  This is the fourth week of Lent and so I turned to the Lenten passages of Scripture for today.

In the first passage, Numbers 21:4-9, we find the story of the bronze snake.  The people were complaining about what God was doing and accused him of bringing them into the desert to die.  In fact, he had brought them there so they could live!  They complained that they had nothing to eat when God had kept them nourished with manna.  They eschewed the manna and hated this provision of God.

Then it hit me.  I do the same thing.  God gave me Tom as my husband and I complain about him.  I rebel against the way he treats me instead of being grateful for the provision he makes for me.  I continue to long for Pearl, just as the Israelites longed to return to Egypt.  In essence, I’ve been telling God that I do not like what he has done for me.  This is the offensive way in me—my ingratitude to God for giving me Tom and for who Tom is.

God’s response to Israel’s complaining was to send poisonous snakes among them.  He brought them pain and death because of their ingratitude.  But in the midst of the pain and death, all they had to do was look at the snake and they were healed.  All they had to do was look.  What consequences has God brought me because of my ingratitude?  And yet, regardless of the consequences, the cure is the same—look to Jesus.  All I have to do is look and I will be healed.

Psalm 32:6 reads, “...let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.”  The assumption here is that the godly have sinned but that by praying, they are protected from the consequences of that sin while the wicked are not.  The godly can go to Jesus for protection but the wicked don’t have that option*.  When I look to God, he will guide me, advise me and watch over me (verse 8).

The first part of this Psalm is a declaration of what happens when we look up to Jesus when we have sinned, such as with my ingratitude.  When I hold onto my rebellion to God, such as not being grateful for the husband he gave me, I will be weak and in pain (verse 3).  I will waste away.  Joy and strength are what come to those who confess their sin (verses 4, 10, 11).

I have been wrong to complain about Tom.  I have been wrong to focus on the negative things about Tom and my marriage to him, instead of being grateful for the good.  My need to feel loved can be filled by going to Jesus and basking in his embrace.

In John 3:4-21, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus: “ Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (verse 14) We just look to Jesus with expectancy.  That’s it! The expectancy is the faith, belief and certainty that doing so will produce results. How do I look to Jesus?  I read his Word, I talk to him, I sit in his presence.  All who do this—looking to Jesus with expectancy—won’t be judged (verse 18) because they are thus exposing themselves to the light (verse 19-21).  Salvation comes by looking to and being in the Light.

Finally, in Ephesians 2:1-10, we see that salvation is a gift: “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” (verse 8)

Having confessed my sin of ingratitude, I come to Jesus with the expectancy that he will forgive me (1 John 1:9).  I spend time with him, soaking in his presence and bathing in the light, and begin to look for all the ways I can show my gratitude and thankfulness for what he has done, is doing and will do.

Lord Jesus, please teach me how to be grateful to you even when everything isn’t the way I’d prefer.

*Note: That isn’t to say that the wicked can’t go to Jesus, because God will accept all who confess their sins and believe in Jesus. Perhaps the godly have more immediate access to God?  I think that’s the implication of this passage.

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